Rats! Mouse-eating plant debuts in Sydney

Wed Sep 24, 2008 11:23pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article
[-] Text [+]

By Pauline Askin

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Forget traps. A carnivorous plant big enough to devour a mouse or baby rat is among scores of rare and exotic flora on display at Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens and horticulturists say it can be grown at home.

The Nepenthes or Pitcher plant is one of several species of plants that not only survive on water, but get their nutrients from digesting animals and insects, Botanic Gardens Trust Executive Director Tim Entwisle, told Reuters.

"Nepenthes rajah has the largest trap, or pitcher, in the world, and the biggest ones can easily demolish a rat. We have a close relative on display this week, big enough to take out a small mouse or baby rat," he said.

"Kid's love them because they can see the insect being caught. Their beauty belies their lethal ability."

Pitcher plants are most common in Southeast Asia, in places like Borneo and Sumatra, but there are also a few species in Australia and New Caledonia.

About 100 species are known already, but there are one or two new ones described each year, Entwisle said. The largest pitcher plant in the world is in Borneo.

Entwisle said even though they are relatively rare, carnivorous plants can be easily grown at home, preferably in pots, and make great entertainment.

"Carnivorous plants are always a good talking point. Kids love them and they're a good educational tool. Although they eat lots of insects, you're not likely to notice a difference in your backyard insect population," he added.

About 100 different kinds of rare and exotic plants are on display from Sep 25 to 27 at the Royal Botanic Gardens.

(Reporting by Pauline Askin, Editing by Miral Fahmy)